anthony

Are we Losing Touch with Reality? (And People)

Recommended Posts

anthony    0

Depressed by politics? Stop staring at phones

 

 Stephen Carter

By Stephen Carter Bloomberg View

Published March 13, 2017

 

The Closing of the American Mouth

Whatever works on the boardwalk, it fails on the roads. Lately we read that drivers using their phones are causing so many collisions that insurance premiums can't keep up. Half of teenaged drivers surveyed admit to texting while behind the wheel, and a two-second glance at the screen exponentially increases the likelihood of an accident. Holding a phone in the hand makes things worse, but, as Tom Vanderbilt notes in his 2009 book "Traffic," statistics for hands-free phones are not much better.

OK, all of this is reasonably well known. (Maybe not the hands-free phone bit, which was news to me, but the rest.) Cell phones can be dangerous but the zombies at the beach weren't behind the wheel. True, even distracted pedestrians seem to be having more accidents. And there is growing evidence that young smartphone users exhibit the same behavior as addicts.

But my libertarian conscience does not want to tell anybody else how to live. If people want to come to the beach on a warm winter day and ignore the view, they should have the same freedom as anybody else to enjoy themselves in their own way. True, the zombies turned out to be the ones slowing foot traffic, and in that sense were uncivil. Given, however, that the zombies constituted a large majority of those strolling along the boardwalk, perhaps our norms of civility need rewriting.

 

If that's too big a change, how about if we all look up from our screens a bit more often and enjoy the view.

Comment by clicking here.

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught since 1982. Among his courses are law and religion, the ethics of war, contracts, evidence, and professional responsibility. His most recent book is The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama (2011). He is an author and Bloomberg View columnist.


 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BaalChatzaf    0

The appropriate penalty for  dangerous driving due to cell phone use would be amputation of the thumbs.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is engineered addiction.

Lots of big shots in Silicon Valley, starting with Steve Jobs when he was still alive, do not allow their children to have access to electronic information stimulation. Or at least highly limited access. Steve Jobs wouldn't even allow his kids to have an iPad.

These folks know what they are doing. They are drug dealers, but using neurochemical reactions to bursts of information on electronic devices as their drug.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Cellphone-Lane-1.jpg

4 hours ago, anthony, quoting Stephen Carter, said:

Of course nobody has an obligation to greet anyone else on the street. But social psychologists who study the effects of technology warn us that the lack of acknowledgment creates an "absent presence." When we are ignored by those around us, stress levels rise. 

I think its the first time I have read 'absent presence.' It looks like a term with loose conceptual edges. But, here is an article that tries to un-pack the meanings:

One article was using the same focus as the iPod article. It was about cell phones and absent presence. Psychologist Kenneth Gergen of Swarthmore College traces "absent presence" back to the printing press, but sees the implications increasing as our media options increase. He summarizes: "The erosion of face-to-face community, a coherent and centered sense of self, moral bearings, depth of relationship, and the uprooting of meaning from material context: such are the repercussions of absent presence."

This may be the reference missing from the Carter article.

Reading Carter, I was running through my mind my own experiences in crowds in the city, and trying to compare experiences before portable devices (like the Walkman) with the present time when almost everyone has a smart-phone in hand or pocket or purse.  

For example, in Vancouver proper, there is and was a kind of 'reserve' on the streets and sidewalks. In the central city there was no 'golden age' of passers-by greeting strangers from among thousands of strangers passed. In most every public space except concerts in the park, parades and political assemblies, there was no particular point to greeting strangers. (of course, this schema breaks down utterly when a person impedes or bumps somebody else -- then Canadianicity kicks in and the "pardon me" excuses trip off the zombie tongue ... )

But.  In smaller centres and neighbourhoods, the utter blank-faced reserve breaks down. Instead of thousands passing you by on a walk of ten blocks, scores pass by.   So in my community on the edge of the metropolis, it still remains more likely that a pedestrian will greet another, if only with a smile or a shibboleth about the weather. 

That said, there are pockets and places inside the centre where the small-town break in reserve also occurs. I see this every time I head for the city's intense pleasures.  It depends on whether you are in a  'neighbourhood' or not, or whether you see the space as a 'conversation zone.'

For example, there are a few bus drivers in town who use the PA system to comic use.  One guy is like a roving mike, commenting on everything that comes to eye, instructing and joshing the passengers.  When I have been lucky enough to ride with him, I noted that strangers are much more likely to turn to another and share the laughs.  No 'absence' here. On several additional short-bus routes** within the core of the centre, the passengers observe a mini-community space on wheels ... directed by the driver. 

Another similar aspect is the 'Thank You Border.'  Our seaside community almost has invisible trip wires -- once you pass them, the majority of passengers on transit thank the operator on departure.  It can be uncanny.   During a long silent highway commute from the city, a portal is passed, after which 'community of friendly strangers' takes its cues.

And if a passenger is uncertain about a destination, a full press of "I can help" helpers turn from cell-phone zombies into tour guides.

4 hours ago, anthony, quoting Stephen Carter, said:

Almost two decades ago I published a book called "Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy." There I defined civility not principally as good manners (although I do believe that manners matter) but as the sum of the sacrifices we make for the sake of living together.

Sacrifices!

 

4 hours ago, anthony, quoting Stephen Carter, said:

Our politics is the fruit of our growing incivility.If we expect better from officeholders and candidates and activists, we have to demand better from ourselves. A good place to start might be saying hello on the street.

I don't quite grasp the meaning of civility here ... from my own experience civility on the streets springs from Canadianicity: mind your own business, don't accost strangers, don't presume anyone will relish eye contact with you, or be at all interested in exchanging shibboleths. 

____________________

** actual short-buses of eighteen seats, with nomenclature "Community Bus."  It turns out the smaller vehicles don't require the expensive driver training of the larger ones.  The more intimate space, the more 'regular gal' drivers, and the naming might play a part in breaking 'mind your own business.' Plus the drivers can bid and hold on to a route, unlike the electric-bus drivers, who are swapped in and out by management. "Hello dear, I missed you last week." "Oh, I was in Puerto Vallarta. I thought I told you." 

Edited by william.scherk
Grrrrrrammar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anthony    0

William,

You make observant comment about personal "engagement" where you are. I too consider myself a good observer of public behaviour and over here it is apparent that people are more avoiding eye contact than I remember they did. Moreso going back to my youth. The most natural thing is to be interested in others, and to acknowledge the existence of people, confidently and honestly. Speaking isn't then necessary, nor civility so much. The devices are both cause and effect of this sad decline, I think. Better, many believe to be absorbed in an IPad than to reveal one's suspicion of strangers (or perceive their's). On that too, in social media, don't you think that as 'communication' has exploded exponentially, true 'engagement' has fallen? Quality has dropped in the face of quantity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, anthony said:

Here too, in social media, don't you think that as 'communication' has exploded exponentially, true 'engagement' has fallen?

I don't know, frankly.  Ten years ago, I had no real  communication of any kind with (for example) the hundreds of folks I have 'met' through Twitter.  

Another puzzle for me is about this forum.  With several rewarding exceptions, I haven't been able to get closer to a 'conversational zone' with other OLers.   By that I mean a simple real-time conversation. I put up a chat bot in my signature for a while, but it was a 'non-starter.'

Similarly, how many folks took me up on any number of 'conversational'  encounters in real-time, via the podcast facility? So far, only two. 

When I was recently on my first trip to London, I was lucky enough to meet face-to-face with two of my excellent Twitter 'friends.'  Without the Twitter thing, I would probably not have been able to find out about the guys, let alone start a relationship. 

[Added]

Quote

In-person discussion will have way more back-and-forth, back-ups, asides, recursion, queries and advances, pauses to explain. Forum splodges of text can be fisked or skimmed past. It's not a conversation. It's really up to selfish intent and willingness to engage, patience and tastes -- when we are interested in full engagement and when not. [link]

[Answering Brant's response to the above, his observation that "No, this is not a "fact" driven faculty lounge discussion."]

Quote

Right. It's an internet forum thread with multiple lines of argument, not all of which coincide or are interesting to other people. I'd say you agree with me that in-person discussion is different from these forum exchanges. That Brant and my exchanges are different from having a conversation. [link]


 

Edited by william.scherk
Added a couple of previous, possibly cogent comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anthony    0
On 2017/03/14 at 8:07 PM, william.scherk said:

I don't know, frankly.  Ten years ago, I had no real  communication of any kind with (for example) the hundreds of folks I have 'met' through Twitter.  

Another puzzle for me is about this forum.  With several rewarding exceptions, I haven't been able to get closer to a 'conversational zone' with other OLers.   By that I mean a simple real-time conversation. I put up a chat bot in my signature for a while, but it was a 'non-starter.'

Similarly, how many folks took me up on any number of 'conversational'  encounters in real-time, via the podcast facility? So far, only two. 

 


 

About these hundreds of folks you 'met' on Twitter - I notice, you don't call "friends" - of whom, two you brought to face to face meetings, very possibly leading to future friendships. Great. But let's not kid ourselves that one can actually have online, anonymous "friendships". Colour me objective  ("color me old" like S. Carter above) but "a friend" is a flesh and blood person, whom you meet fairly regularly, (even after he's left for other places, he's a friend), and who has a physicality - an identity you know -- whose personality, character and thinking you have come to appreciate, admire and care for. The same going for him/her, mutually.

A single conscious mind can't hold many of these real friendships at a time. The 'virtual' version of "friends" by the hundreds, is pie in the sky and devalues the currency of the concept. It merely superficially pretends to satisfy human requirements. That de-person-alised and likely one-faceted Internet contact (who might be misrepresenting him/herself for kicks or his self-aggrandisement, anyway) -- is not - *real*.

But it seems (I'm no student or member of social media, just an over the shoulder observer, now and again) they are what serve as 'friends' for vast numbers - especially youngsters, kids - but not only. That today is what serves as "friendship". What and who are lots of those people going to *be* after a few years more of this "exploding" phenomenon, when they're basically learning little but faking and avoiding reality? Will they be able "to engage" honestly and rationally with real individuals when all they know is to disgorge and react and (probably) conceal?

Predictably, reports and research of psychological and cognitive deterioration are emerging about dependency on our devices, and without looking for them I've noticed some.

Of course - while Information Technology (and I've touched only the communication side) can be value-neutral, it most usually has been a force for the good. (Depending on the individual, and what he defines "the good" to be). Of course - I'm not for a moment down on one being able to access someone else instantly and cheaply: and that one, multiplied by billions every minute of a day. Not to mention all the data at our fingertips. But alongside that I wonder if the technology is not lauded and counted upon by many as The Answer - it alone to "save us from ourselves", bring mankind together, and serve humanity's future good? Fallaciously.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anthony    0

In one of the few or only places I know that Rand wrote of "The humanities" is at the start of The Romantic Manifesto, and if you exclude the theme of art, it has a place here.

"The position of art in the scale of human knowledge is, perhaps, the most eloquent symptom of the gulf between man's progress in the physical sciences and his stagnation (or, today, his retrogression) in the humanities.

The physical sciences are still ruled by some remnants of a rational epistemology (which is rapidly being destroyed) but the humanities have been virtually abandoned to the primitive epistemology of mysticism. While physics has reached the level where men are able to study subatomic particles and interplanetary space [...] Yet art is of passionately intense importance and profoundly ~personal~ concern to most men ..." [AR: TRM, mid-60's].

The humanities are getting left behind.(And art here, is just one "symptom"). I view science and its technology partner in this light. In the graph I imagine, one graph line is still rising, heading who-knows where. The other graph line - the humanities - is languishing, flat and descending. As the gap widens beween them, from man's scientific knowledge, to man's personal knowledge (morality, politics included) we are heading into dangerous territory. Far from saving us from ourselves, tech power, left to its own devices in anti-reason, anti-individualist times, might turn out to cause man's downfall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anthony    0
On 2017/03/13 at 6:32 PM, william.scherk said:

 

Cellphone-Lane-1.jpg

I think its the first time I have read 'absent presence.' It looks like a term with loose conceptual edges. But, here is an article that tries to un-pack the meanings:

One article was using the same focus as the iPod article. It was about cell phones and absent presence. Psychologist Kenneth Gergen of Swarthmore College traces "absent presence" back to the printing press, but sees the implications increasing as our media options increase. He summarizes: "The erosion of face-to-face community, a coherent and centered sense of self, moral bearings, depth of relationship, and the uprooting of meaning from material context: such are the repercussions of absent presence."

This may be the reference missing from the Carter article.

 

 

 

I think "absent presence" is accurate, although it appears contradictory. Thanks for looking up the further explanation, William. This was the main point to me of Carter's meandering, social article.

Think about reading a novel in a busy place. You, (or that girl in the corner), are engrossed in some private activity, removed from everyone. One is there and simultaneously in one's mind, 'not there'. It's quite a great thing to my mind to see such a selfish, volitional focus in others. Perhaps, as Carter was concerned, it socially alienates others, but what of it?

However, I suggest "the girl" has made a choice to immerse herself in some thing - 'another reality' (of art) - more important to her, for the time being, than the reality around her. 

Compare, hugely expand and extrapolate to the often non-chosen barrage of incoming information from your IPad - or whatever - and not forgetting that you are aware the device lying next to you has an endless ~potential~ of information or social media contact for you to easily activate at any second. The draw is irresistible to most people, and that is how I often (e.g.) get to see a restaurant of people, many not living in the moment, not seeing, conversing and appreciating where they are and who they are with but instead, heads down, interminably tapping and scrolling and swiping at their cells until they leave.

It's those active dealings and observances he has with real living which provide man with his inductive experiences, crucial to concept creation. I venture that the involuntary and addictive 'removal' from reality, is mind-compromising, certainly in the long run.

Quote:

"The erosion of face-to-face community, a coherent and centred sense of self, moral bearings, depth of relationship, and the uprooting of meaning from material context: such are the repercussions of *absent presence*".

"Uprooting of meaning from material context" - academically and fancily, says it all. That is - the loss of contact with reality. Again, "extrapolate" this universally, to societies and individuals everywhere, and what will we have? (what do we have?) Pathological anxiety, dissatisfaction with oneself, and dissatisfaction with politics (etc.) for a few major things.

It is like being young again, not in a nice way, when one was never satisfied with where one is, what one owns, what one is doing etc,etc. There was always some 'other place' you *should* be. In fact, at heart, it may have been some ~other person~ which one *wanted* to be. But pre-technology, and very limited in information/contacts as it was then, this problem was surmountable with conscious effort.

Now, returns to adults that loss of a self-centred core with this advanced technology, ill-used. One can imagine, and visibly perceive, the mega-heightened fear, worry, envy, outrage and anxiety and loss of self which is endemic to the youngsters raised in the technology.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter    0
On ‎3‎/‎13‎/‎2017 at 11:37 AM, BaalChatzaf said:

The appropriate penalty for  dangerous driving due to cell phone use would be amputation of the thumbs.   

In Saudi America?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now